One of the year’s most anticipated hot hatches – the Ford Focus RS – has been spied testing at the Nurburgring. Bodywork changes are fairly limited on this prototype but underneath lie the Quaife diff and turbocharged engine that Ford hopes will allow the Focus RS to outpoint the Evo X and WRX STi.
We'll see a concept of the Ford Focus RS at the 2008 London motor show this July. The UK is home to one of the world’s biggest hot hatch markets, and Ford is wise to recognise this with the London launch of the RS Concept. Expect the car to be 90-95 percent production-ready.
Ford Focus RS: the headline figures
This Cologne-registered, pre-facelift ST body hides the underpinnings of the all-new performance halo model for the Blue Oval, which will hit UK roads in 2009 - six years after the Mk1 RS. It follows the successful Focus ST, a comfier but sedate hot hatchback that has outsold the Golf GTI since launch.
The new RS is expected to keep many of the creature comforts of the ST but add a big dose of extra punch – think 280bhp, 160mph and a sub-6.0 second 0-60mph time.
Ford Focus RS: the styling
Don't worry, the RS will look different from the ST, despite the appearance of our test car. What the white test mule does show is one of the aerodynamic tweaks to the ST’s body that will distinguish the RS – chiefly a front splitter extending from the standard bumper. While it hints at the extra aerodynamics tweaks needed, it doesn’t yet give a clear idea of how the bodywork of the RS will look in the metal.
An official teaser shot from December 2007 did show a very Escort Cosworth-esque front end, with slatted air ducts on the bonnet and huge foglights on a steroid-pumped front bumper. It improved the Mk2 Focus no end, blasting away all criticisms of its overly matured styling.
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Ford Focus RS: the mechanicals
Ford isn’t fitting four-wheel drive to the new RS, an economical move to avoid the high cost of overhauling the bulk of the Focus mechanicals. That means a front-wheel drive set-up, but the RS will have an electronic differential to keep all those extra horses in check and avoid torque-steer. It’ll be produced by Quaife, but vary from their differential in the previous RS that split opinion so much. Expect the on-road twitchiness to be ironed out.
The Evo X is one of the main rivals Ford is pitching the top-end Focus at. Insiders are confident it can outgun the Mitsubishi that’s been grabbing many a rave-review of late, and the latest Lancer's combination of acceleration, grip and refinement (also seen on the controversial new Impreza) is something the Ford should challenge. There’s also talk of a twin-clutch transmission appearing, developed in conjunction with Getrag - it’s called Powershift and works in a very similar way to the DSG system on VW Group cars.
RS prices are expected to hit £25,000, undercutting the Evo and equalling the VW Golf R32 and Subaru Impreza WRX STI. It’s a big hike from the sub-£20k of the last RS, but for good reason: Ford is reported to have made a £7000 loss on each one that left the factory. The new Ford Focus RS will be launched at the end of 2008, and land on our shores in 2009.
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